Interrupting Rosh Hashanah, 5768 to re-post some words from 2005. This morning I followed a link that led me here:
Scribbit's September Write-Away Contest
sponsored by Michelle Mitchell, author of a wonderful blog about life as a mom in Alaska. The theme for this month was "learning." I've been kind of obsessed with the topic all week long, so figured I should enter. I realized, after services last week, that I manage to learn something new from the rabbis at my synagogue even when they don't say a word--even from their gentle, generous body language at the bima, from their very breaths. Teaching seems to emanate from their every pore. In honor of this astouding gift, an old post about how the memory of another teacher led me to a different kind of awareness:
(Original post here: http://onchanting.blogspot.com/2005/06/91-leaf-from-tree.html)
Friday, June 03, 2005
91. A leaf from a tree
I had never wanted to thank so much as in that moment. It was frightening, this joyful, painful need; it didn't feel like myself. One minute I was here and then higher, dizzy, drinking in something very good, just like when I sung the B Minor Mass.
I didn't understand math when I was a kid. Then I got to high school, where math had shapes and concepts, all explained by my favorite teacher Mr. A., who divided the ideas into parts and then put them back together in a way even more exciting than literature. One day he plotted points on graph and then, just before the bell rang, connected them to form a sine curve. I recognized the shape; it was the body of a wave, the top of a mountain range, a flag in the wind. It was an equation, and yet also a picture of real things, as much a portrait as if I had painted it. They were linked, the equation and the sea, partners in the language of what made up the world. One without the other was only part of the story. I was dumbfounded by this idea, and sat staring at the blackboard even after the bell rang and everyone left for the next class.
And this was the same. My thanks were one thing, and all I was grateful for another, and they were linked. You could even argue that they were the same, two halves of a larger whole. You might choose to sing praises in an empty room, or say "you're welcome" to an anonymous crowd, but why bother? Each action needed the other in order to make sense. And I realized this was why people, sane people, people like me, could need and want to pray, and then really mean it--because they believed, they knew, that if you threw a bunch of thanks out to the universe, it had to be caught. It had to complete something else. And the receiving place, whatever my gratitude was sticking to--people, the wind--that was God.
I thought these thoughts quickly, in the time that a leaf could blow off a tree, but everything was different afterwards.